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Bad weather causes chaos at Faro Airport
Five people were injured at Faro Airport in the early hours of Monday morning and thousands of others saw their flights disrupted after gale-force winds tore up the infrastructure’s roof. On Wednesday, the main terminal was evacuated and closed as a safety precaution as the ruthless weather returned.
Thousands of passengers were grounded on Monday after the severe weather wreaked havoc at the airport, causing considerable damage to its northern and southern extremities.
Five people, four employees and one passenger, were injured in the incident, though none of the injuries were thought to be serious.
Practically the entire roof over the arrivals terminal was ripped off in the stormy weather at around 5am that morning, as was the roof over the check-in area. Damage was also caused to exterior coverings and awnings in the car park, as well as to the Air Traffic Control Tower which saw almost all of its windows shattered.
Winds are said to have reached 100km/h, well above gale-force.
Immediately following the incident, just one flight to Bristol departed.
One witness who arrived at Faro Airport at 9am Monday morning, accompanied by his wife to catch a flight to the UK, said the scenes he witnessed were of utter mayhem.
“Even though there was virtually no flight activity at this stage (…) coach loads of passengers were still being allowed into the terminal, which was massively overcrowded, much more so surely than any rules could have permitted. Communication was virtually non-existent”, he recalled.
“Literally thousands of people were crammed in the building with no purpose yet no effort was made to evacuate or partially evacuate the building or to communicate with passengers or control crowds. We saw passengers being taken away having fainted in the crush”, the witness added.
Faro Airport Director Francisco Correia Mendes said that he expected all flights to have returned to normal by the end of Monday, and that alternative arrangements would be made for arriving passengers while repairs, which could take “weeks or months”, are carried out. Arriving passengers will be taken by bus to the departures area.
On Tuesday Rui Oliveira, spokesman for national airport management company ANA, said: “As a result of nature’s actions which yesterday caused extensive damage to the covering of Faro Airport’s terminal, including around half of the check-in area, measures were taken to restore around 50 percent of the infrastructure’s capacity (12 movements per hour), making it possible, therefore, to meet the present needs of traffic.”
He said on Tuesday that the airport would maintain its reduced capacity of 12 movements per hour (six arrivals and six departures) until order was restored and that no delays were expected as a result.
A total of 112 flights were scheduled on Tuesday, 57 arrivals and 55 departures, added to which three flights rescheduled from the day before, two arrivals and one departure. Between midnight and 11am, 13 flights took off and 14 landed, including one that had been diverted from Malaga.
However, on Wednesday, faced with more bad weather and winds predicted to yet again reach gale-force, the decision was made to evacuate and completely shut down the main terminal.
In a statement sent to The Portugal News on Wednesday, Rui Oliveira confirmed the closure and said that check-in and security procedures would be relocated to other parts of the airport, apologising for any inconvenience caused.
“After evaluating the safety conditions at Faro Airport, given the weather conditions predicted for today in this city, where gusts of wind between 65km and 100km per hour are expected, Faro Airport Terminal will be closed to the public from 12pm to ensure the safety of passengers and employees who work there.”
Passengers started to be evacuated from 11.30am. Check-in and security procedures were relocated to other parts of the airport, to rooms designated for the purpose. Both check-in and arrival procedures were expected to take twice as long.
Passengers were advised to go to car park P6 to be processed.
Mr. Oliveira told The Portugal News that, with passenger and employees’ safety as a priority, the terminal would remain closed until weather conditions improved and allowed it to safely reopen.
The reduced pace of 12 movements per hour was maintained, with 122 movements scheduled for Wednesday.
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